Wahama's been there, now finds if it can do that
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Wahama advanced to the Super Six two years ago, the moment may have been too big for the Mason County school, which opened in 1925 and was making its first appearance in the championship game.
The White Falcons ended up losing to Wheeling Central 28-14 in a competitive contest, but the seeds were sown and have sprouted into a confident bunch that returns to Wheeling Island Stadium to face fourth-seeded Madonna (12-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Class A title game.
There will be no surprises this time for the No. 3 White Falcons (13-0), who have several starters back who played in the title game against Central.
"I heard one of the kids that had been there talking to a freshman or sophomore saying this will be the longest game you've been in because of the [media] timeouts,'' said Wahama coach Ed Cromley. "Just how the flow of the game goes. They're helping the others get oriented instead of getting up there and figuring it out on the run.
"The kids are taking it in stride and not getting overtaken of the novelty like they did the first time we were there.''
The White Falcons have that experience stockpiled at key positions with seniors Trenton Gibbs (quarterback), Zach Wamsley (wingback) and Crandale Neal (wingback). Those three also start on defense.
Gibbs has passed for 1,151 yards with 13 touchdowns against five interceptions and is the team's third-leading rusher with 576 yards and seven scores. Wamsley is the second-leading ground gainer with 1,141 yards with 20 TDs. Neal has 596 yards rushing with seven scores and six catches for 200 yards for a 33.3-yard average and four TDs.
Kane Roush, a junior, leads the team in rushing with 1,607 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Wahama has won 31 straight regular-season games, going 10-0 each of the past three seasons. Those seasons have allowed the White Falcons to fly deep into the postseason, allowing those players to get comfortable in big-game situations.
"We've played a lot of playoff games since then,'' said Cromley of the school's first trip to Wheeling. "The experience leading up to that for those sophomores now seniors and those other guys who have stepped in, it's more normal for us. I think they've been very good experiences for us. Everybody kind of expects it to happen again. It's very difficult to get to the Island.''
Wahama defeated host Magnolia 10-7 on a last-second field goal in the semifinals last weekend. The White Falcons beat Greenbrier West 22-13 in the quarterfinals and disposed of Buffalo 38-0 in the opening round. West and Magnolia were Class AA schools last season.
The White Falcons have faced a multitude of different offensive looks and styles the last three weeks. Buffalo presented a spread formation while Greenbrier West was strong and powerful on both side of the ball and Magnolia relied on raw speed.
"We've gotten a variety of play the last three weeks that I think will prepare us to play at a higher level,'' Cromley said. "We've been real fortunate with injuries and not having any problems. I felt like we've come out of that a positive.''
So do all these experiences finally add up to a title?
"Maybe,'' said Cromley. "It's hard to tell. You have to go out there and play better than Madonna does, and that's going to be a tough team. Most people haven't done that this year.''
You can bet, though, that Wahama won't be overwhelmed with the task at hand.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.